Tomorrow (Saturday, May 25th) is the first market day of 2019. I am excited, anxious, and a little overwhelmed, but I cannot wait to see what this season brings! Every year, we look back on the previous season and analyze what worked, what didn’t, what we can expand on, and what needs to be streamlined or simplified. I also usually post a blog about the farmers’ market season after it ends. However, 2018 was kind of a strange year and honestly, can be summed up by one phrase—back to the drawing board. This led us to a new approach when prepping and planning for this year’s market. This is our first year starting almost all our plants from seed which has kept us quite busy. It has also created a slight learning curve as we muddle our way through, but that’s what keeps things interesting, right?!
A Look Back on 2018 Season
It is almost impossible to talk about farming/gardening and not mention the weather. Weather always comes into play! It determines when we plant, what we plant, how the plants grow and so much more. Last year’s weather had a major impact on our productivity. We went from winter to summer then back to winter; we had no spring nor fall. Which means that most of our cool weather plants did not survive. Last year we had no beets, no carrots, no spinach, no kohlrabi, and only limited amounts of radishes and turnips. Sad, I know. Luckily, this year things are looking better!
Last year, we expanded our garden plots and decided the one by the road would be perfect for plants that deer never really bothered. Boy, were we wrong! In that plot alone, we lost all our sweet potatoes, all our okra, and almost all our butternut squash. We also lost most of our corn and green beans to wildlife last season. Needless to say, all of our garden plots now have fences around them.
Despite all the produce that never made it to market, I am extremely pleased with our overall sales last year. That is due in large part to our loyal customers and wonderful community! I have so much gratitude for those who enjoy learning about the food they eat and are willing to support small-time local growers like us. So, thank you!
A Look Forward to 2019 Season
With last year’s strange weather and the possibility that it may become our new normal, we decided to try a few different varieties alongside our “go-to” varieties of produce. By comparing the different varieties, we are hoping to determine what variety does best under our growing conditions while producing the highest quality produce. With last year being the first year we actually had a decent winter squash yield, it was clear that not all varieties are the same. That’s probably what started our quest for the best of the best. Varieties of the same plant can differ in germination rate, rate of maturity, color, taste, size, shape, adaptability, and so on. What we look for when choosing varieties is different for every type of produce. For winter squash, I looked for sweetness/flavor, texture, and storage time. For lettuce, I looked for color, type, and heat/cold tolerance. For tomatoes, I looked at size, growth habit, crack resistance, sweetness, color, and shape. Those are just a few examples of how we thoroughly research all available seed varieties to end up with our ideal produce. As of right now, we have planted a total of over 125 varieties of produce, herbs, and flowers. Ideally, we would like to see every variety make it to market. However, I will be happy if at least one variety of each type of produce we plant makes it to market.
It’s a little too early to go into detail but we have also been brainstorming ways to provide produce after or outside of our local farmers’ market. Last year we tried doing produce baskets, but with the cold fall, we were only able to do a one-time test run. We had a pretty good response, but it was evident that we still had some kinks to work out. There is one possible option that I am excited about; however, there is a lot to think about before moving forward. Therefore, I don’t want to say too much about it in case we decide to go another direction. I will say that we are always looking for ways to expand our produce selection and customer base.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to start another market season! The off season always seems to fly by, especially once January rolls around (that’s when the real prep starts). Dad and I have been working hard to get everything planted in a timely matter so that we will have plenty of produce available all season long. I look forward to seeing everyone very soon!